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Cholesterol Levels Rising Among Young Adults in U.S.

Lack of awareness of risk still widespread

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the fact that the overall prevalence of hypercholesterolemia has been falling for decades, cholesterol levels among young adults have begun to rise, according to a study published online on Dec. 12 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. In addition, the use of lipid-lowering medication has doubled in patients over age 35 in a decade, while the medications are hardly used by the 25- to 34-year-old age group.

To assess changes to mean (non-fasting) cholesterol concentrations, Donna K. Arnett, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues analyzed data from the Minnesota Heart Survey (MHS), in which five independent cross-sectional population-based surveys each covering between 2,500 and 5,000 adults were conducted from 1980 to 2002.

From 1980-1982 to 2000-2002, the mean total cholesterol concentrations for men dropped from 5.49 mmol/L to 5.16 mmol/L, and for women fell from 5.38 mmol/L to 5.09 mmol/L. While middle-aged and older age groups (45 to 74 years) showed substantial decreases, there was little change in the younger adult age group (25 to 44).

"Younger people... have, in fact, recently experienced increased total cholesterol concentrations... near or at the National Cholesterol Education Program level of borderline-high risk," the authors conclude. "The MHS data reinforce that improved screening alone, however, is insufficient; we must continue to encourage behavioral, dietary and pharmacological control of cholesterol in those individuals who are aware of their cholesterol risk."

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